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Dame de Coeur 2018

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COEUR DE DAME-5

I am a sucker for any kind of illumination or light show, as I have posted about many of the ones I’ve seen over the years in Invalides, Chartres, and Avignon. 

Last Thursday night, Notre Dame had one of the grandest of all. The masterpiece of Gothic architecture was the ideal façade for a light extravaganza. Bruno Seillier is the creative wizard behind most of the illumination presentations I’ve seen, including Avignon and Invalides. Due to the success of the first Dame de Coeur last year, Seillier was invited back again to prepare another show. 

It was a brisk, clear night and a half moon shared the stage ready for the big event to come. The square in front of Notre Dame was filled cheerful adults and children, patiently waiting for the show to begin. A group of excited adolescents sitting next to me were raring to go and standing in front was a group of nuns looking just as excited. 

At promptly 8PM, the lights in the square went dark, then a moment of silence and suspense came, and after the roar of music and thunderous voices spilled out of the loudspeakers.

The theme was about WW I and below is a short synopsis from the Dame de Coeur website. 

On a battlefield in 1917 we are in the dark, about to attend a meeting between a young French nurse and a dying American soldier. At the twilight of his life, he tells her he regrets he never could visit Notre-Dame. Through a historical, and mystical dialog, these two souls find each other to access together to Notre-Dame mystery that’ll be their “Dame de Coeur”.

The light sequences were breathtaking, changing ever so briskly, I hardly had time to focus my camera before the next came and went. All the nooks and crannies of the intricate stonework of the cathedral with saints, angels and stained glass windows were saturated with the most gorgeous colors and patterns. 

After 25 minutes of the razzle and dazzle, it appeared that the show was over. But low and behold, the middle doors of the cathedral dramatically parted and a white mist seeped out. It was an invitation to come inside the cathedral, as there was another light show awaiting us. More about that tomorrow, sorry to keep you hanging. 

Dame de Couer is a twenty-five-minute show and features seventeen sound and light scenes plus eight projectors placed in the Notre-Dame plaza and 80 inside the cathedral.

Dame de Coeur plays two times a night, 7:30PM and 9:30PM, until October 25. 

Entry is free but you must access a ticket online and a donation to the cathedral is requested. 

Click link below to order tickets

https://damedecoeur.placeminute.com/spectacle_son_et_lumiere/dame_de_coeur_le_spectacle_monumental_de_notre-dame_de_paris,1,26320.html

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I am so pleased to have Ann Mah as my guest this week at on A Bite of Paris. We went to Le Mistral, her favorite Paris bistro and had their signature dish, aligot, a rich, creamy mix of whipped potatoes and cheese from the Aveyron region.

Click here   or link below to watch Ann and I enjoy aligote.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiRHIW7Oitw&t=4s 

Tourslogo4Come experience Eye Prefer Paris live with Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I personally lead. Eye Prefer Paris Tours include many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes, food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks and gardens and much more.  In addition to my specialty Marais Tour, I also lead tours of Montmartre, St. Germain, Latin Quarter, in addition to Shopping Tours, Gay Tours, Girlfriend Tours, Food Tours, Flea Market Tours, Paris Highlights Tours, and Chocolate & Pastry tours.

Tours start at 225 euros for up to 3 people, and 75 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you, my insiders, Paris.

 Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com 

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bogorad
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cherjr
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As the scandal of Khashoggi's disappearance grows, Silicon Valley has stayed mum on its connections to Saudi Arabia, the largest funding source for US startups (Wall Street Journal)

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center, met with a group of venture capitalists in San Francisco in June 2016.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center, met with a group of venture capitalists in San Francisco in June 2016. Photo: Bader Al Asaker

As international backlash grows over Saudi Arabia’s alleged involvement in the possible murder of a journalist, Silicon Valley faces a potentially unsettling fact: The kingdom is now the largest single funding source for U.S. startups.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has directed at least $11 billion of Saudi money into U.S. startups since mid-2016, either directly or through SoftBank Group Corp.’s $92 billion tech-focused Vision Fund, to which the Saudis committed $45 billion, according to a Wall Street Journal estimate of data from research firm PitchBook. The total invested by the kingdom so far in U.S. startups is far bigger than the total raised by any single venture-capital fund.

Some of tech’s most prominent young companies have welcomed Saudi money, including Uber Technologies Inc., office-sharing company WeWork Cos. and augmented-reality device maker Magic Leap Inc. For Uber, the situation could be particularly dicey: A prominent Saudi official sits on its board.

For now, the companies are preferring to keep quiet about the escalating controversy. Of the 22 startups in which the Vision Fund or the Saudis have invested, all but one declined to comment or didn’t respond to requests. Uber pointed to a recent statement from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who said he planned to pull out of a Saudi-sponsored business conference and that he was troubled by the reports about the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

For the startup community, “there are incidents where you have to look and decide which side of history you want to be on, and if this is true, this is one of those,” said Venky Ganesan, former chairman of the National Venture Capital Association and an investor at Menlo Ventures, which has invested in Uber. “It’s more than about startups and money—it’s fundamentally about what you think about human rights.”

Tech companies are in a particularly conflicted spot given the idealistic missions espoused by many leaders in Silicon Valley, where employees routinely rebel over contracts they find unprincipled. WeWork, for instance, has banned meat over concerns about its environmental impact.

“Silicon Valley has been incredibly hypocritical in accepting investments from an anti-Semitic country, [which] criminally punishes gays and de jure discriminates against women,” said Keith Rabois, a venture capitalist at prominent firm Khosla Ventures, in an email.

The Saudis have committed $45 billion to SoftBank Group’s $92 billion tech-focused Vision Fund.
The Saudis have committed $45 billion to SoftBank Group’s $92 billion tech-focused Vision Fund. Photo: © toru hanai / reuters/Reuters

Mr. Rabois’s position also illustrates how pervasive Saudi money is: Multiple startups backed by Khosla have raised money from SoftBank, including online home-selling company Opendoor Labs Inc., of which he is a co-founder.

SoftBank and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund declined to comment.

The sheer scale of money is unprecedented—and to some founders, irresistible. The Saudi-backed Vision Fund—where the majority of investment decisions are made solely by SoftBank—has led at least 20 deals totaling more than $17 billion of investment in U.S. startups, according to PitchBook. Saudi’s Public Investment Fund has committed another $4.9 billion to Uber, Magic Leap and electric-car maker Lucid Motors Inc.

After Uber co-founder and then-CEO Travis Kalanick flew to the kingdom to meet with the crown prince two years ago, he secured a $3.5 billion investment from PIF within weeks, people familiar with the matter have said. A condition of the deal: The PIF would receive a board seat.

Some Silicon Valley leaders criticized Uber, saying that by accepting the PIF investment it was tacitly endorsing Saudi policies, which at the time included a ban on women driving. Uber executives, in response, denied any policy support, saying the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were allies and that the ride-hailing service was a valuable tool for women. Uber board member Arianna Huffington said then she believed the Saudi government should allow women to drive—and they since have.

Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive of SoftBank, with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in March 2018.
Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive of SoftBank, with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in March 2018. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg News

Uber doubled down on Saudi Arabia. When Mr. Khosrowshahi succeeded Mr. Kalanick as CEO last year, he made finalizing what ultimately became a $7.7 billion investment from the Vision Fund one of his first orders of business. That deal effectively netted Saudi Arabia about 10% of Uber, including the PIF investment.

In the days after Turkey accused the Saudi government of killing and dismembering Mr. Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, many executives and investors have said they would suspend projects with the Saudi government or cancel their plans to attend its coming business conference.

On Monday, Alphabet Inc. said that Diane Greene, head of Google’s cloud-computing unit, wouldn’t attend the conference. Robert Thomson, chief executive of Wall Street Journal-parent News Corp , had planned to attend but is reviewing the situation, a company spokesman said.

Others who have backed out are Mr. Khosrowshahi and Ms. Huffington, who was scheduled to speak at the conference.

The Saudis have denied any involvement.

Yasir Al Rumayyan, the head of PIF, sits on Uber’s 12-member board and, according to people familiar with the matter, Uber is contractually obligated to hold a seat for PIF as a result of its investment. Such arrangements, which are customary in venture capital, generally mean it is difficult for boards to remove such a director except in cases of impropriety or when an investor’s stake drops below a certain level, these people said.

Some Uber investors have privately shrugged at the controversy roiling Silicon Valley. The ride-hailing company plans to go public in 2019, and at that point it won’t need to raise more private capital and the board composition would likely change, these investors say.

Uber recently received proposals from Wall Street banks valuing the ride-hailing company at as much as $120 billion in an initial public offering that could take place early next year, according to people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Uber has been trying to clean up its image following a year of scandals and legal imbroglios. It also complicates possible business deals—Uber is in talks to acquire Dubai-based Careem, which has also taken money from PIF, said one person familiar with the discussions.

On Monday, Bahrain’s foreign minister on Twitter called for a boycott of Uber after Mr. Khosrowshahi said he wouldn’t attend the conference. Uber declined to comment on the official’s statement.

Turkish officials say a team of alleged Saudi assassins apprehended and likely killed a Saudi journalist in Istanbul. The Saudis have denied any involvement but Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen since he entered the Saudi Consulate on Oct.2. Photo: Getty Images

Write to Eliot Brown at eliot.brown@wsj.com and Greg Bensinger at greg.bensinger@wsj.com

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bogorad
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How DNA Databases Violate Everyone's Privacy

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If you're an American of European descent, there's a 60% you can be uniquely identified by public information in DNA databases. This is not information that you have made public; this is information your relatives have made public.

Research paper:

"Identity inference of genomic data using long-range familial searches."

Abstract: Consumer genomics databases have reached the scale of millions of individuals. Recently, law enforcement authorities have exploited some of these databases to identify suspects via distant familial relatives. Using genomic data of 1.28 million individuals tested with consumer genomics, we investigated the power of this technique. We project that about 60% of the searches for individuals of European-descent will result in a third cousin or closer match, which can allow their identification using demographic identifiers. Moreover, the technique could implicate nearly any US-individual of European-descent in the near future. We demonstrate that the technique can also identify research participants of a public sequencing project. Based on these results, we propose a potential mitigation strategy and policy implications to human subject research.

A good news article.

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bogorad
7 days ago
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yeah! screw 23andme et al!
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Study of online local news outlets: 96% of thriving outlets were in communities whose businesses could buy ads and readers had extra income to subscribe (Poynter)

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More than a decade into the rise of the hyperlocal news website, conventional wisdom dictates that advertising alone will no longer pay the bills and digital local news publishers must diversify their revenue streams to survive.

While memberships and subscriptions are increasingly important revenue streams, our new study finds that local news entrepreneurs who are thriving -- and the not-so-successful ones, too -- still rely heavily on advertising as their main source of income.

In the whitepaper “Health and wealth in local news,” from the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, we sought to answer the question: what do successful online local news sites look like today?

We interviewed 43 online local news publishers who represent outlets across the U.S. that produce substantive, independent, multi-sourced local journalism. Almost all are of the outlets are digital-native, and all are for-profit commercial enterprises.

For this research we put aside questions of content quality and impact, and zeroed in on what it takes for an outlet to survive financially. The factors we focused on were background of the publisher, experimentation with different revenue streams, and the wealth of the surrounding community.

We found that just over half of our outlets (23 of 43) met three of the four criteria we used to define “success”:

  1. They had been publishing continuously for five years or more.

  2. The publisher takes a paycheck from the profits.

  3. They were profitable for 12 of the 12 months before the publisher was interviewed.

  4. The outlet had a gross annual income of $25,000 or more.

A full 33 of publishers (77%) listed advertising as their primary source of revenue, with 87% of those who met our success criteria saying so and 65% of struggling publishers saying so as well.

Many of these news entrepreneurs said they had experimented with revenue streams other than advertising, such as paywalls and subscriptions, but our data show that experimentation did not make a publisher more likely to achieve financial success. In fact, nearly the exact percentage of thriving outlets (61%) and struggling outlets (60%) reported revenue stream experimentation.

For those outlets that had not experimented at all, it was often not because of a lack of willingness on the part of the publisher, as we explain in the report:

Nearly every publisher we interviewed who answered that they had not experimented with non-traditional revenue streams lamented this fact, expressed a desire to do so, and wanted to learn more about how they might do so with limited resources. When we looked more closely at the 14 thriving outlets that do generate revenue from sources other than advertising, we saw that reader revenue (paywalls, subscriptions, events) was most important, and will almost certainly provide key income in the future.

We also found that being situated in and/or serving a community that has at least a moderate level of affluence was key to success; 96% of thriving outlets were located in a community with middle, high, or mixed-income (meaning the population included both low- and high-income people).

The finding of wealthier communities supporting local news better than lower-income ones shouldn’t be surprising. Publishers noted that wealthier communities often have downtowns with a number of thriving businesses that have space in their budgets for marketing. And audiences who have some disposable income are more likely to become members or subscribers to local news outlets.

In addition, only one news site that the publisher identified as serving a low-income community met our criteria for success.  This underscores a widely held concern that while local news entrepreneurs have found pathways to success in towns that already have structural advantages, cash-strapped communities that can provide less advertising or reader revenue are in danger of being provided for unequally.

Our third major finding was that while the majority of local publishers come to news entrepreneurship with a background as “legacy journalists,” publishers who have a diverse background that includes sales or business experience may have an advantage when performing the many roles now demanded of local publishers.

One key takeaway from this research is that the economics of digital local journalism are in danger of reproducing economic (and as a result social and political) divides in a way that purely advertising-supported local and regional news outlets may not have; that is, online local news outlets are finding ways forward with a mix of old and new revenue streams, but this new model is working best in affluent communities. Poorer communities are in danger of being left behind even more than they were in the legacy era.

Therefore one of the handful of recommendations we made was that foundations and other philanthropic organizations should directly subsidize local news providers in less affluent communities with operational funding, or by supporting completely new initiatives such as Community Info Districts that direct a small percentage of tax to outlets for this purpose.

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bogorad
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duh!!
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If Silicon Valley is sincere about "changing the world", it should return Saudi billions until alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi has been suitably investigated (Anand Giridharadas/New York Times)

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Silicon Valley’s Saudi Arabia Problem

Technology companies can no longer turn a blind eye to the human rights abuses of one of their largest investors.

By Anand Giridharadas

Mr. Giridharadas is the author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.”

Imagealt
CreditCreditLauren Simkin Berke

This essay has been updated to reflect news developments.

Somewhere in the United States, someone is getting into an Uber en route to a WeWork co-working space. Their dog is with a walker whom they hired through the app Wag. They will eat a lunch delivered by DoorDash, while participating in several chat conversations on Slack. And, for all of it, they have an unlikely benefactor to thank: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Long before the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished, the kingdom has sought influence in the West — perhaps intended, in part, to make us forget what it is. A medieval theocracy that still beheads by sword, doubling as a modern nation with malls (including a planned mall offering indoor skiing), Saudi Arabia has been called “an ISIS that made it.” Remarkably, the country has avoided pariah status in the United States thanks to our thirst for oil, Riyadh’s carefully cultivated ties with Washington, its big arms purchases, and the two countries’ shared interest in counterterrorism. But lately the Saudis have been growing their circle of American enablers, pouring billions into Silicon Valley technology companies.

While an earlier generation of Saudi leaders, like Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, invested billions of dollars in blue-chip companies in the United States, the kingdom’s new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has shifted Saudi Arabia’s investment attention from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has become one of Silicon Valley’s biggest swinging checkbooks, working mostly through a $100 billion fund raised by SoftBank (a Japanese company), which has swashbuckled its way through the technology industry, often taking multibillion-dollar stakes in promising companies. The Public Investment Fund put $45 billion into SoftBank’s first Vision Fund, and Bloomberg recently reported that the Saudi fund would invest another $45 billion into SoftBank’s second Vision Fund.

SoftBank, with the help of that Saudi money, is now said to be the largest shareholder in Uber. It has also put significant money into a long list of start-ups that includes Wag, DoorDash, WeWork, Plenty, Cruise, Katerra, Nvidia and Slack. As the world fills up car tanks with gas and climate change worsens, Saudi Arabia reaps enormous profits — and some of that money shows up in the bank accounts of fast-growing companies that love to talk about “making the world a better place.”

Mohammed bin Salman has carefully nurtured a public image of himself as a reformer, distancing himself from Saudi leaders of the past. During a recent visit to Silicon Valley, reportedly to discuss “potential cooperation between American tech companies and Saudi Arabia,” the prince did away with his traditional white robes as he met with executives and investors. On his tour, he was seen walking around with Sergey Brin of Google, exchanging smiles with Mark Zuckerberg while exploring Facebook, and sitting down with Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who owns The Washington Post, for which Mr. Khashoggi wrote until he vanished.

The crown prince’s visit to Silicon Valley appears to have paid off for all involved. Silicon Valley celebrated one of its largest investors, the crown prince cemented his public image as a progressive start-up investor, and several of the executives he met have since joined the advisory board of Neom, his $500 billion megacity project. A former United States energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, suspended his involvement in Neom earlier this week, telling Axios that he has concerns “about the disappearance and possible assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.” Y Combinator’s president, Sam Altman, also suspended his involvement in the megacity project, saying that he doesn’t “plan to comment on the case until the investigation is finished.” Many other Neom advisory board members — including Marc Andreessen of the famed Silicon Valley investment firm Andreessen Horowitz; the former Uber C.E.O. Travis Kalanick; and the Boston Dynamics C.E.O., Marc Raibert — remain on the board as of now.

The bond between Saudi Arabia and Silicon Valley will be further strengthened later this month, at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh — also known as “Davos in the Desert.” Speakers listed on the conference website as of this writing include the Lucid Motors C.T.O., Peter Rawlinson; the Google Cloud C.E.O., Diane Greene; the Magic Leap chief product officer, Omar Khan; and Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures. They will be joined by hundreds of other investors, executives, and government officials, including the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, and the United States Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin. According to its website, the event is “powered by the Public Investment Fund.” Several speakers have dropped out, including the Uber C.E.O., Dara Khosrowshahi, who stated that he was “very troubled by the reports to date about Jamal Khashoggi.”

The kingdom’s influence in the United States government has long bought a certain amount of silence, which was evidenced most famously in the 28 pages”: a classified portion of Congress’s investigation of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that disclosed Saudi linkages to the hijackers that were suggestive, if hardly conclusive, of official support — pages that victims’ families long struggled to get declassified. But the push into Silicon Valley — into companies whose technology is used by millions — represents a potentially dangerous new front of Saudi influence-peddling: Riyadh underwriting ever more of our daily conveniences, making us complicit in the regime’s deeds.

The facts of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance remain a mystery. But if he was, as Turkish officials have suggested, murdered at the behest of the Saudi kingdom, it wouldn’t be out of character. Despite image-burnishing attempts like the crown prince’s Silicon Valley tour, Saudi Arabia remains a paragon of human rights abuse. It continues to use punishments outlawed elsewhere, carrying out 48 beheadings in the first four months of 2018. In August, it was reported that Saudi prosecutors were seeking unprecedented authority to behead a female activist for nonviolent offenses, which included protesting against the government.

Saudi Arabia’s laws treat women as second-class citizens, and they were only recently granted the power to drive — and only once it had become clear that this freedom would be short-lived, thanks to Silicon Valley’s driverless car technology, in which the Saudi fund has invested. The Saudis have fueled a civil war in Yemen that is reported to have cost at least 16,000 lives; a report from the United Nations Human Rights Council suggests that Saudi Arabia may be guilty of war crimes for its involvement in the civil war of its southern neighbor. And, thanks to the world’s need for its oil, the kingdom has enjoyed a stunning immunity from justice for its role in financing Islamist extremism around the world.

As Saudi Arabia establishes its new role as one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent investors, the risk grows that its investments will purchase silence. Companies that pride themselves on openness and freedom may find themselves unable to speak ill of one of their largest investors.

Fearing that this would be so, I reached out to several of the technology companies that have received significant cash from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. I asked Uber, Wag, DoorDash, Katerra, WeWork, Slack and Plenty if there was any aspect of Saudi Arabia’s conduct in Mr. Khashoggi’s apparent murder that the company disavowed. “Or,” I asked, “does the investment from PIF come with an expectation of remaining silent about Saudi conduct?” All of the companies either declined to respond at all, or responded with a refusal to comment on the record about the Saudi kingdom’s behavior.

Silicon Valley has enough issues already: Tech companies are compromising our elections, upholding monopolies, and profiteering from the abuse of privacy. There is no need to add to that list by becoming a reputation-laundering machine for one of the least admirable regimes on earth — a regime that would seem to violate all the values that Silicon Valley is proud of trumpeting.

Arvind Ganesan, director of the business and human rights program of Human Rights Watch, told me in an email that the Riyadh conference “will be a litmus test for businesses’ willingness to go along with a Saudi narrative that is increasingly disconnected from reality.” Foreign businesses “risk more than reputational harm,” he added. “They’re enabling part of his narrative.”

If the Valley is sincere that it will “change the world” and “do the right thing, period,” then the Saudi government’s billions of dollars in investment capital should be returned, and Silicon Valley companies should refuse any further investments. Every business leader and news organization of conscience should pull out from the Public Investment Fund-powered conference and suspend any involvement with Saudi-funded projects like Neom — at the very least, until the disappearance and potential murder of Mr. Khashoggi have been suitably investigated, but perhaps beyond that, given the regime’s broader human rights record. (I became aware during the writing of this piece that The New York Times had been listed among the conference’s sponsors but has since withdrawn.)

Mr. Khashoggi couldn’t be intimidated by his country. He might have given his life for his bravery. Silicon Valley must choose where it stands on the questions of lies and truth, cowardice and courage that defined his work. Turning a blind eye to the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia is no way of “changing the world.”

Anand Giridharadas is the author of, most recently, “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.”

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion).

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bogorad
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чтоб знали!
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Trump’s USA Today op-ed demonstrates why it’s time to unbundle news and opinion content

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A friend who works at a major tech platform recently posed an interesting riddle to me. Disinformation peddlers were setting up Potemkin local news sites which republished a mix of valid, truthful wire stories and hyperpartisan propaganda. How should the platform differentiate between these bait-and-switch efforts and the real journalistic outfits — say, The New York Times — that ought to receive a boost in ranking results?

This is a harder question than it appears. After all (and I say this as a avid New York Times power reader), the Times also publishes a mix of hard-nosed journalism and partisan messaging, framed as opinion. Here are some articles that have run on the NYT recently: “Liberals, This is War,” “Three Lessons for Winning in November and Beyond,” and “Conservatives Are Wrong To Gloat About Kavanaugh.” I happen to agree with many of the sentiments in all three — but it’s hard to argue they’re not pointed political statements.

The recent furor over President Trump’s op-ed in USA Today brings this growing tension between opinion and news content to the fore. As The Washington Post’s fact-checker par excellence Glenn Kessler wrote, “almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood.”

Readers have been, reasonably, both surprised and outraged: How could USA Today have not caught all the factual errors in Trump’s op-ed? The unfortunate reply — that opinion content at most newspapers isn’t held to the same journalistic standards or as reliably fact-checked as news stories — isn’t a very compelling one. We can bet the credibility of USA Today’s hard-working journalists will be dinged as a result.

It may not be a surprise to journalists that opinion content doesn’t receive the same rigorous editing and fact-checking treatment that news does — but it is to the public as a whole. This contributes to a crisis in trust. Why does the public have such a hard time figuring out what “news” means? Because it’s actually confusing! Even highly media-literate people can have a hard time understanding where the lines are drawn, or what “news analysis” is supposed to mean, especially when it’s written by newsroom journalists but contains statements closer to speculation or opinion.

So perhaps it’s time to reconsider the whole premise of bundling together hard news and opinion content under the same brand names and domains. If we believe there’s something special about the processes and norms that create journalism (and I do), publishers should draw a brighter line around it — a line that both people and algorithms can understand.

Moving opinion content onto separately branded sites wouldn’t mean getting rid of it entirely. But the whole practice of op-edding deserves a shakeup anyway, in an era where anyone can self-publish and content is experienced in an atomized form. When a small group of industrialists owned the printing presses and controlled the means of news distribution, the packaging of the sponsors’ political opinions onto a particular two-page spread was a necessary evil, or even a public service. But no longer: The Internet — and society as a whole — doesn’t suffer from a lack of opinion content.

Academics who study expertise look for three important criteria: concrete results, consistently great skill, and the ability to deliver both repeatedly. We want surgeons who can do the same operation over and over again with a high success rate. If we believe journalists provide an expert service — and I mostly do — it’s worth considering what they’re able to repeatedly deliver: Knowledge about what’s happening, what’s going to happen next, how events are related, and what it all means.

Mixing opinion content in with this news reporting undermines those value propositions. As political scientist Phil Tetlock showed in his book Expert Political Judgment, expert opinions are often less accurate than uninformed ones, for the simple reason that many experts in academia and journalism are incented more by flamboyance and interestingness than by accuracy. What’s going to happen is often pretty obvious, but wild speculation makes for good copy and lots of pageviews.

Meanwhile, platforms are hard at work to figure out how to identify and boost news content amid the misinformation morass. Outside startups from Civil to NewsGuard are trying to evaluate the credibility of news brands as an input. Most of these efforts focus on assessing credibility or news value at the level of a URL or domain. As long as opinion content and news content live in the same place, I’d suggest this exercise will be hard-to-impossible. (None of this is meant to suggest that journalism is or should be free of a point of view — just that the process and norms for how journalistic content should be produced and evaluated are valuable ones.)

One way to answer the riddle would be to go back to the devil’s bargain above. Perhaps we’re looking at the hyperpartisan news problem the wrong way; perhaps if hyperpartisans are willing to do the thankless yet civically noble work of distributing lots of AP articles, they should get some “credit” they can then spend distributing their political views.

But the simpler solution is just to separate out opinion content onto its own clearly identified sub-brands and domain. Journalistic institutions could make a similar move to the one BuzzFeed has just made, separating news content onto its own brand and its own domain (with a different, more seriously serif-y font, even!). BuzzFeed’s News vertical includes opinion, but there’s no reason why opinion couldn’t live on its own island. Publishers with subscribers could easily provide access to both.

Opinion articles can be hugely valuable, informative, and galvanizing. They can be a platform for a wider and more diverse group of voices, and expose people to important ideas. But at a time when both the public and algorithms are trying to understand what journalism means and how to distinguish between news and opinion, publishers should make it more clear what makes journalism special.

Eli Pariser is cofounder of Upworthy, former executive director of MoveOn.org, and author of The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web Is Changing What We Read and How We Think.

Illustration by Neil Davies used under a Creative Commons license.

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bogorad
10 days ago
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haha wet dreams.
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